Monday, November 28, 2011

Moms Need Vacations Too!

God's Words:

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.  Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.
~Mark 6:30-32 

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." 
~Matthew 11:28-30 

As I write this morning I am thoroughly, completely, TOTALLY enjoying the peace of a quiet home.  How on earth did I manage to get my home to be so silent and peaceful on a Monday morning, of all mornings?  When it is typically rather loud around here at most hours of the day with giggling, rough-housing, questions, interruptions, mess-making, fighting, whining, tattletaling, yelling (ok, that's where I come in), and MORE NOISE AND COMMOTION THAN I CAN SOMETIMES HANDLE!  Well, the answer is simple.  I am on vacation from being a mom.  Albeit a less-than-24-hour-long-mini-vacation, but I'll take it and so far I have savored every - single - second!  Since we homeschool, we have the luxury to be able to take days off whenever we really need them.  And this teacher mom needs a break, thank you very much!

Now please don't get me wrong;  I LOVE my children more than life itself.  I always wanted to get married and be a mother more than any other dream I've ever had and I'm so thankful to the Lord for giving me these desires of my heart.  I LOVE being a stay-at-home mom.  I have learned (yes, learned - I didn't really enjoy it much at first!) to also LOVE being a homeschool mom, which means being with my kids almost 24/7.  I LOVE each of my children's personalities and that I have the privilege of daily watching them grow and develop into the people God wants them to be.  I LOVE the funny, sweet things they say and do.  But I also happen to LOVE quiet alone time. And quite frankly, once in a while, my dear, sweet, precious little gifts from God DRIVE ME ABSOLUTELY BONKERS, BATTY, AND UP THE WALL!  I'm ashamed to admit (even though it's kind of funny and we all laugh about it afterwards) I have often told my little lambs when I've reached my mothering limit, that they are "driving me to the point of insanity!!!"  At times like this, when I have just simply had it with their boisterous shenanigans, I may also be guilty of quoting Scripture completely out of context in my distress, such as "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest." (Psalm 55:6)  Or "I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” (Job 3:26)  Or even, and this is my most often used favorite, "O Lord, be my help." (Psalm 30:10b)

I have found that some people mistakenly assume that homeschooling mothers, or mothers with many children (I personally classify this as any number greater than what I have, which is three!), have an extra measure of patience to be able to handle the mothering responsibilities they've been given/taken on.  Nope.  I've talked to many a homeschool mom and "mom of many", and the large majority of us struggle to develop and maintain patience, just like everyone else in all of humanity.  For me, personally, to be able to get through each day having the patience and gentleness to be the nurturing, wise mother God wants me to be, I daily need to look to Him to provide the grace and strength to do so.  He is always faithful and gives me what I stand in need of when I ask!

Yet, every once in a while I get to the point when I just really need a vacation from my 24/7 (yeah, that's right, that's much more than "full-time"!) job as a mom.  In most other jobs that pay actual money, employees get regular breaks throughout the work day or shift.  They also get vacation time each year, as well as holidays off.  Well, I need a break, ok?  I want a vacation, too!!  Do you as a mother ever get to that point of longing for a time of quiet, peace and rest from your demanding, never-ending job as a mom?

I have all kinds of "mom friends".  ALL of my mom friends juggle much more than just their mothering duties.  A lot of my mom friends work full or part-time.  A lot of my mom friends "stay at home", which in my opinion is just as much of a sacrifice as working outside the home.  I am getting to know more and more homeschool moms, among which are quite a few that also hold down regular jobs on top of homeschooling, which is at least a part-time job in itself!  I have a number of mom friends with infants, toddlers and preschoolers (now THAT is an exhausting phase in life!!!).  Some of my mom friends (and these are my personal heroes) are single parents and have to do all the parenting by themselves!  I also have quite a few "grandmother friends" who give up much of their time each week to help watch and care for their grandchildren.  My own mother and mother-in-law are two of these amazingly wonderful grandmas!  I seriously do not know how I would survive my time of mothering young children if I did not have these two selfless, loving women in my life who drop pretty much anything else they have going on to baby-sit my kids whenever I need it.  Actually, that is where my children are at this very time - at my mother's house.  Yesterday I was desperately needing a break and my mom and dad willingly (and always very excitedly) took my kids overnight on very short notice.  THANK YOU, MOM!!! (She reads my blog)

Maybe you don't have any nearby relatives who can take your kids off your hands for a while so you can enjoy a quiet time of rest.  But I advise you to do what you can, in your situation, whatever it may be, to give yourself "time off" from parenting once in a while when you're getting run down and weary.  It's such an exhausting job!  Do you have any close friends with whom you could "swap children" on a regular basis to give each other a break?  Or maybe find it in your budget to hire a baby-sitter to come and take over for a few hours every so often so you can get away.  Away!  Oh, to get away!!  That sounds horrible, doesn't it?  But really, don't we all need a break sometimes?  If none of these ways work out for you, then just turn on a long, age-appropriate of course, movie for the kids and escape to another room for some quiet time working on a hobby you love or even a hot bubble bath!

God doesn't want you to get weary and exhausted from your labors of love as a mother.  He knows we are only human and need rest and our burdens lifted.  So don't forget the next time you've had it and need some peace and quiet - listen to Jesus saying to you, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." and "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."   Call on Him for rest and peace and He will be faithful to provide a respite for your weary soul, even if it means locking yourself in the - you know - bathroom!

Most of the time, all it takes for me to be totally revived and refreshed in my calling and duties as a mother is to have a few hours to myself of quiet, peace and rest.  Then I'm ready to once again take on the noise, the commotion and the boisterous activity of my very high-spirited, sometimes mischievous youngsters!  I hope and pray that you will find a time for rest and rejuvenation when you're needing it most this week!

In Christ,


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

3 Ways to EnCOURAGE Your Kids

God's Words to Read:
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
~1 Thessalonians 5:11

And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
~1 Thessalonians 5:14

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
~2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

I'm sure you've noticed before that the word "courage" is found in the word "encourage".  According to the dictionary, one of the definitions of the word "encourage" is:  to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope. 

Sometimes our children might feel timid about trying something new.  Perhaps they have become discouraged about finishing a commitment or furthering a pursuit they began because it has proven difficult for them.  Or maybe they are faced with a problem that seems impossible to overcome.

Here are 3 ways we mothers can step in and inspire our children with courage and hope:

1.  Build up their confidence in how uniquely God created them.
Many times the reason we lack courage in doing something is because we don't have enough confidence in ourselves.  Where does our confidence really come from?  Just from knowing what other people think about us?  For sure, that definitely helps!  But I also believe that our confidence should come, first and foremost, from knowing that God created us with very special gifts, talents and abilities unique to each of us.  Help your children recognize the unique gift set that God has blessed them with.  God gave them these abilities for important purposes that He has planned for them!  He wants them to develop their talents and abilities so they will succeed in making the most of what He has given them.

Here is a parable Jesus told to teach us how God wants us to use the talents and gifts He has blessed us with (and this story is actually where the term "talent", referring to a special gifted ability, comes from!):

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them.  To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.  The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more.  So also, the one with the two talents gained two more.  But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.  The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?  Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

“‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents.  For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.  And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
~Matthew 25:14-30

Yes, sometimes developing our talents and abilities can be very hard work!  But so worth it in the long run!!  As the saying goes, "practice makes perfect"!  So help your children set a future vision or goal concerning a certain ability they are trying to cultivate.  Maybe "seeing" what end result they hope to attain will encourage them to keep on keeping on, even when the going gets tough!

2.  Teach them to look to God for encouragement and strength. 
But what if your child is not gifted in a certain area?  Or what if they are struggling with how to handle a problem they are facing?  Guide them to look to God as the #1 Source for encouragement in life (see again part of today's key verses, 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.  May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.
~Romans 15:4-5

The Lord also promises to give us the strength we need to deal with any challenges that come our way, if we seek Him for it.

He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
~Isaiah 40:29-31

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions,in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
~2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
~Philippians 4:13

So if our children happen to be weak in a certain area or are struggling through a tough time, God promises to give them His strength and power to endure, prevail, and even overcome the obstacles they face!

3.  Advise them to choose encouraging friends.
Do your children have friends that make an effort to build them up and help them be the best they can be?  We should guide our children in surrounding themselves with encouraging friends.  Even having just one good friend like this is enough to make a big difference in your child's life!  I pray for God to bring encouraging friends into my children's lives.  When I observe one of their buddies having a positive influence on them, I make a point of fostering that friendship in any way I can.  On the other hand, we can also try to steer our kids away from "friends" that don't have such a good influence on them.  I often tell my kids that "a true friend wants the best for you and will help bring out the best in you."

Do not be misled:  "Bad company corrupts good character."
~1 Corinthians 15:33

A man of many companions may come to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
~Proverbs 18:24

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!
~Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

I hope these words and truths from Scripture have enCOURAGEd you as you seek to be an enCOURAGE-ing mother.  Your children will be blessed by your efforts to inspire them with courage, hope and spirit!

In Christ,


Friday, November 4, 2011

A Devotional Blog for Mothers

Hi, my name is Suzy and I am very excited about my first blog!  According to the calendar, I am turning 34 on November 7, although I still feel 28 (wonder how much longer that will last??).  So to celebrate my birthday this year, I decided to finally get a start on one of my life goals, which is to write a devotional for mothers.  I want this devotional blog to be a place where all mothers - from new mothers to GRANDmothers - can find encouragement and be built up through God's Word to carry out the mothering roles and duties God has called them to.  This includes step-mothers, "working moms", "stay-at-home moms", homeschooling moms, empty nester moms, and really anyone with a mothering role!

In this first post, I would like to take the extra time to introduce the theme of my blog.  Hopefully, my future posts won't be as long and time-consuming to read!  I really aim to keep them short and readable in less than 10 minutes; especially since we mothers have so little time in our day to sit down, let alone read a super-long devotional!  In each post I will share a Bible passage that you can look up in your own Bible, followed by whatever thoughts and message I feel God showing me personally in that passage.  I encourage you to write down in a journal what you feel God is showing you as you read His Word.  And always feel free to share with me these thoughts in the Comments section below!  I would love to read what God shows you through the same passages we explore together!  My hope and prayer is that here you will find pleasant words to uplift and bless you, so that in turn, you may be better equipped to uplift and bless others.

As mothers, we have the extremely important responsibility of training our children, step-children and grandchildren in doing what is right.  We can be much more effective in this endeavor if we speak to them with pleasant words, as opposed to unpleasant words (yelling, complaining, harsh criticisms, etc.).  It is a well-known fact that people respond better, even while being criticized or reprimanded, if they are spoken to in a positive, respectful, loving way.  Therefore, I have named my blog "Pleasant Words" after Proverbs 16:21, a verse that God has used to speak to me many, many times in the past few years.  To better instruct my children, God wants me to use pleasant words.  Not only when I am instructing them in how to do something, such as baking cookies or making their beds, but also in teaching them moral lessons.  I have made this verse my homeschool motto.  I have it written in green pen (to match my green window coverings, of course!) on a 3x5 card, taped to the side of the cupboard in front of my kitchen sink (where I spend countless minutes a day), so that it will be a frequent reminder of how God wants me to talk.

But why has God put this verse so heavily on my heart, you may ask?  Well, everyone has good and bad personality qualities, right?  Unfortunately, one of my worst qualities, against which I struggle daily, is that I often say whatever is on my mind at the time.  I speak before I think.  I stick my foot in my mouth frequently.  I complain out loud a lot.  I can have a sharp tongue when someone upsets me, annoys me, or if I just happen to be in a bad mood.  Maybe you struggle with an impulsive tongue, too.

Since committing my life to Christ at the age of 19, the Holy Spirit has been working a great deal on this part of my personality, shaping me to be more like Him.  God's best for us is not to let us stay bogged down by our sin nature.  He wants us to seek Him for grace and strength to overcome our weaknesses.  Just because my natural tendency is to speak impulsively, this does not give me an excuse for that behavior.  Only I can control what comes out of my mouth!  As James 3:10 says, "Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  My brothers (and sisters!), this should not be."  God wants only positive, kind, loving, respectful, edifying, encouraging words to come out of our mouths.  Words of praise for Him and for others.  Words of thankfulness, not complaining and grumbling.  Words to build others up, not tear them down.

Have you ever read the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman?  It's a life-changing book which I highly recommend.  One of the main 5 love languages is that of Words of Affirmation.   We can effectively and positively impact others in our lives by showing love in how we speak to them.  Christ commanded us to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39).  How do we like to be spoken to?  With put-downs and jabs and complaints?  Or with words that make us feel loved, respected and accepted for who we are?  We can shine our light in a dark world, showing Christ's love to everyone we have contact with, simply by speaking loving words.  Oh, it's so powerful!  So simple!  Yet, it can be so hard!!!

How many times in your life has your mood and attitude been brought down by someone else's bad attitude or mood?  I read once that the wife and/or mother sets the mood for the rest of the family.  Whenever I'm in a good mood, it rubs off on everyone else.  And when I'm in a bad mood, complaining and letting my sharp, impulsive tongue get out of control, then everyone's mood goes downhill and fast!  We mothers need to daily remind ourselves to set a good mood for the rest of our family.  So for today, read James 3:1-12.  Pray that God will open your heart to how He wants you to control your tongue in order to bless others and be blessed.  Then, by His grace and strength, you can be a woman who speaks pleasant words.

In Christ,